Category Archives: Journalism

Entrepreneurial journalism

Today I flipped the switch and launched Edmonton Quotient into the Internet. It may not be, technically, my first business but it’s certainly the first one I’ve approached that way from the start.

The last few years I’ve called myself a “sometimes journalist” or said that I worked in media jobs that were journalism-adjacent. I think those are both accurate descriptions of my work at Capital Ideas and Accessible Media. Since I’ll still be working on a lot of the content for EQ, I think my new attempt at a job title would be journalist-entrepreneur or “entrepreneurial journalist”.

I hope the content and stories that are to be produced for Edmonton Quotient are good. I hope they help fill the gap of shrinking newsrooms cut again and again by profit-driven corporations. And I most hope they inform Edmontonians and activate people to take part in the many issues and challenges our city faces.

Strange as it may seem, I’m not truly worried about the content side of things. There are a lot of great journalists in Edmonton that can write and produce for EQ. It’s coming up with money for them to do this that will be my real work. That’s where the entrepreneurial aspects come into play.

So many headlines remind us how media industries are failing. The question, then, is how I’m going to build a successful, sustainable media company here in Edmonton. (This is where I tell you where to send the giant novelty cheques.)

I’m making a few guesses about how to do this. First, find as many streams of revenue as possible. I’ve got three or four in mind right out of the gate, but I’ve still got to be open to new opportunities as they arrive, especially if a pivot makes business sense (while retaining integrity around the journalism).

Second, I think local businesses have a role to play in local media. Along with cuts to newsrooms, you see local ad space disappearing on local media websites. It’s all Google boxes and ad networks. I think there is something to be said for visiting a local website and knowing that all of the ads and sponsors you see are from businesses you can walk into today.

Local website, not-so-local advertising.
Local website, not-so-local advertising.

Edmonton Quotient will have local news, local information and local advertising. If you’re not an Edmonton (or area) business, I don’t want your money and I don’t want your ads on the site. Part of the “conversation” between content and audience needs to include local businesses that are interested in finding new customers. I’m hoping this curation of advertising gives people a reason to pay attention to ads and sponsors they see on EQ content.

I suppose a smaller bet I’m making is that I don’t need to pull in millions of dollars each month. That kind of massive media model is teetering and I think smaller, local and niche media is where things are going and where success will be found.

Whatever happens, I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

(The easiest way to keep updated is to sign up for EQ’s newsletter. I’ll do all the work for you!)

Edmonton’s New Media Outlet

I’m starting a new Edmonton magazine that will focus on local news, issues and discussions about our city. It’s called Edmonton Quotient (or, EQ for short) and I hope you’ll sign up today to be the first to know when it officially launches.

I’m choosing today to announce Edmonton Quotient because it was one year ago – January 19, 2016 – that Edmonton’s local news coverage took a very public and very difficult hit when Postmedia combined the newsrooms of the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun and laid off more than 30 people (newsrooms in Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa were also combined with a second paper also owned by Postmedia). More people left soon after that, not interested in working in a gutted newsroom or simply leaving before the next cuts came (which they did, before the end of 2016 as Postmedia looked to slash 20% of its staffing costs).

These cuts were by no means the largest or deepest to hit Edmonton news, as all outlets have laid people off and reduced staff in the last decade, as digital changes left the old business models flailing. I also doubt we’ve seen the end of such decisions for local affiliates of Postmedia, Bell, Rogers, Shaw and possibly even CBC (though that one remains tied to government decisions until such time it’s out of the advertising world).

The cuts did get a lot of attention though, as newspapers remain the primary driver of enterprise and original journalism in most cities (and the former editor-in-chief grabbed attention too). So it means fewer feature stories in Edmonton, less beat coverage at City Hall or the Alberta Legislature (or in health, education, neighbourhood issues, the court system, etc.) and more duplication of the same stories everyone is covering at the same news conferences and daily events.

I’m not saying that Edmonton Quotient will fill all the gaps left by last year’s cuts at Postmedia, or years of cuts at other outlets (including losing one alt-weekly newspaper, SEE Magazine, and the City-TV newsroom). In fact, I don’t necessarily think the old newsroom models are the best use of resources, especially with thinned-out staff numbers. The inability to truly pivot from some of those models will be a continued problem for those struggling corporations with local banners (on both the journalism and business side).

I want Edmonton Quotient to tell some local stories, dig into some local concerns, offer people actions they can take on issues they feel are important, provide some media literacy and pay journalists a decent fee for their work (no working for “exposure“). No news outlet can cover everything well, and keeping that in mind we’ll pick and choose what we can bring new information and insights to. I hope you’ll be part of the conversation.

Another goal I have for the content is to include new and minority voices in the coverage and conversations. I’m a straight, white male living a fairly privileged middle class life. My view of the world, and those of some of my colleagues in a white (male) media cannot be the centre of EQ’s journalism. Please put me in touch with new journalists and as many women, Indigenous and people of colour writers, journalists and thinkers who could work on stories and be guests on podcasts and at events.

Local business is also part of my vision for Edmonton Quotient. I believe there’s value in being able to let local folks know about your business, and there will be advertising and sponsorship opportunities with EQ.

For the business owner choosing us, ads will be highly visible, limited to a small number of Edmonton businesses and reasonably priced. And we won’t pressure you to spend more money on longer campaigns – if advertising with EQ isn’t meeting your goals we hope you spend your money elsewhere (and if we know where that could be, we’ll point you in that direction). We see this as a relationship between two Edmonton businesses helping each other.

For the audience, the ads will be limited in number, for local businesses only – places you could walk into today – and we hope that curation will make them a valuable and important part of your time spent with Edmonton Quotient. I know I love finding out about great new places to spend my time and money here in Edmonton. This will not become a cluttered website of ad boxes, page takeovers and pop-ups. (And no programmatic ad networks that compromise your Internet privacy and follow you from site to site.) Advertising should be smart, informative and even helpful to its audience.

In short, Edmonton Quotient will be a place to discuss important Edmonton issues, see some interesting local and long-form journalism (which ideally introduces you to new voices and points of view) and hopefully teach us all a new thing or two about this city we call home.

Oh, and no pop-ups. Ever.

The ABCs of Journalism: Always Build Community

In an effort to not bury the lead, my news today is I am going to be the new Product Strategist at Postmedia Labs, headquartered (locally) at the Edmonton Journal. New job! New responsibilities! New places to eat lunch! (Downtown lunch recommendations welcome.)

robot, knit, tie
Mr. Roboto, the business robot, says successful media businesses are built on community.

Now then, on to what I think that means about community, or: the long read begins.

With media of all kinds being rocked continually by digital innovations, I think two things lead the way in allowing a media source or producer to stand out and remain relevant. The first is original content. Even the Huffington Post could only get so far re-purposing news content, and original content is what will drive Netflix’s continued growth.

On a smaller scale, or at least in more local media situations, the audience being a part of the process, in some way, shape, or form, is a key. That’s why I find this new opportunity at Postmedia Labs so exciting. While the newspaper arm of the company continues to create content, this startup branch is creating community-based projects to try and establish the newspaper of record (here, the Edmonton Journal) as a true hub of local knowledge, information sharing, and connection. It creates two-way conversations instead of old-style media which just pumps out content.

It’s these kinds of projects, these kinds of chances, from media organizations that will set them apart in an increasingly crowded social media stream. I think in a couple of years it will be projects and products like Capital Ideas, Gastropost, local events, and even bold ventures like the Winnipeg Free Press’ News Cafe, that help traditional media creators continue to do what they do (understanding that “what they do” is also changing). By connecting with the audience, by learning from and listening to them, new products are going to launch, new communities will be fostered, and maybe a little money can be made along the way to keep things afloat. And, really, everyone wins a little bit if we’re working together toward success.

The community aspect of Postmedia Labs is what draws me to the job.

For the last seven years I’ve been the Manager of Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) bureaus in Edmonton and Winnipeg. It’s been a tremendous opportunity and I’ve been a part of many great productions in audio and video which made media forms more accessible (such as audio versions of print material), highlighted disability issues, and helped this pioneering media organization work towards its important mission of making all media accessible to Canadians.

A couple of years back, I was also one of the two editors of local community website (and TV show) the edmontonian. Even with 14 years in traditional media this was probably where I learned the most about journalism and audience. My partner, and the main contributors who helped make the edmontonian what it was, taught me news and media is nothing without an audience and really becomes something special if it’s got the same audience top of mind while producing content.

At AMI I learned about Canada’s disability communities, and keeping them front of mind meant AMI’s shows and stories always had a reason to be produced and thus served a community. At the edmontonian, it was all about Edmontonians (obvs.) who were part of the conversation, and part of the editorial team when they wanted to be. Otherwise it would have just been Sally and I yelling at the Internet. Building up a community, and around one, is what made the edmontonian work and what makes AMI so unique in Canada’s broadcast system. Lessons I won’t soon forget.

Personally, this is an exciting opportunity for me because it’s my first step away from media work. While Postmedia is a large media company, the Labs is a startup within the larger corporation and doesn’t create editorial material like the newsrooms do. I also get to join a great team at the Edmonton location of the Postmedia Labs (Karen, Brittney, Vickie, Sam). I can’t wait to get over there to work with them and the many community partners they’re building with.

The 5 Ws of MediaCamp

Who: A fine selection of local journalists, educators, communicators, developers, and designers.

What: A one-day conference (with lunch and snacks) to teach storytellers (journalists, bloggers, etc.) more about technology and connect them with local developers, and show developers a little more about getting some work with larger media organizations and getting their stories told.

Where: The World Trade Centre, in downtown Edmonton.

When: Saturday, February 4, 9-4:30.

Why: Storytellers can always use new tools, and there are plenty of great developers here in Edmonton to help launch apps for media organizations looking. Developers can meet with some storytellers and media folks who could be in the market for some apps, or some technological help, and a few tips on getting their story out there will likely be helpful.

Register today, and I’ll see you on Saturday.